Pets impact emotional and physical health

FRANKLIN, Ky. – We all love our pets, but did you know that dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners according to the American Heart Association?

In fact, animals can serve as emotional support for their owners and can help people get through traumas, loneliness and other struggles.

Pets have their own way of loving and their own way of comforting and that’s one of the many reasons people love their animals.

WKU psychology professor Rick Grieve said pets can help people struggling with mental health issues.

“The emotional support animals serve the role as almost a surrogate therapist. I have known clients who have had difficulties with the depression, mostly depression, that have said that their animals saved their life,” said Grieve.

For the elderly, animals can provide a sense of companionship, especially for people like Ms. Emma Hurst who has suffered the loss of several husbands.

“I’ve been worried about him, and I can’t sleep or do nothing without him because me and that dog was buddies,” said Hurst.

Since her pug, Jessie James’, disappearance two weeks ago, Hurst has lost a significant amount of weight and has been put on several medications.

She even told her daughter, Emmett Patana, that living without her dog is hard.

“To see her down to 98 pounds and, you know, not knowing if she’s going to answer the phone the next day or even be alive the next day. You think it’s just a dog and it’s not a dog, it’s not just a dog. It’s like her son,” said Patana.

“People really do bond with animals just like they do with other important people in their lives and as we get older and we start losing people in our lives, it does actually have an impact on our health,” said Grieve.

Pets can help in other areas of healing as well.

“When they do animal assisted therapy, pain tolerance goes up, blood pressure goes down. There was a study done with kids who had autism and their level of psychological distress decreased when they were working with animals,” said Grieve.

The term emotional support animal is often abused by people trying to get out of paying pet rent, but the benefit of a pet for people who genuinely need one can be lifesaving.

So, Grieve encourage the public to not misuse the title.

Jessie James is 9-years-old.

Hurst is pleading with the public to give her any information on the whereabouts of her dog.

If you have seen Jessie James, contact the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office.

Hurst and Patana are offering a reward for any information that leads to Jessie James’ safe return.

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